Kevin Bacon Basketball: six degrees of NBA separation

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By Rudy Gayby

In 2009, Tim Duncan sat down with 11-time NBA Champion, Bill Russell (right, with Chamberlain), who was recently honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award in the United States.

During the exchange, Russell retold the story of how the day after Jackie Robinson’s death, his wife called Russell saying she wanted him to be a pallbearer at Jackie’s funeral.

“Of course,” Russell responded.

“But can I ask why, why me?,” Russell followed.

According to Mrs. Robinson, Bill Russell was Jackie Robinson’s favorite athlete.

Russell goes on to tell Duncan, “And I feel the same way about you...You’ve played heart, played smart, won championships, and I don’t think you’ve finished that.”

I wish I had some deeper, more creative reason for recounting that moment, but I don’t.

However, it’s loosely topical because of the new basketball, waste-time website: 6 Degrees of Separation.

Created by Ben Blatt and Arjun Modi of the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, the site affords visitors the opportunity to enter two completely random NBA players, as long as they played between 1949 and 2010, finding out how many degrees they’re separated by.

For example, typing in “Bill Russell” and “Tim Duncan” shows that three NBA players stood between them: Don Chaney, Gerald Henderson, and Avery “The Little General” Johnson.

Give it a try and see what you find.

Turns out Matt Bonner is only Bobby Simmons away from Michael Jordan.

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